White Light has supplied the lighting for Magic Goes Wrong, which recently opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End.

Created by the award-winning Mischief Theatre and magic legends Penn & Teller, Magic Goes Wrong focuses on a hapless gang of magicians trying to host a charity fundraiser – with hilarious results. It features a lighting design by David Howe, who is lighting several of Mischief Theatre’s other shows. He comments: “The basis of the show is that it’s very much a slick variety show where everything should technically run smooth. However, the magicians and acts who perform aren’t the most skilful which results in everything going wrong… As ever with Mischief, it’s a very slick and fast-paced show. Set Designer Will Bowen created a very ‘variety-looking’ stage, complete with glossy floor, big theatrical tabs and glitter-drapes. There is also a large video wall at the back of the space which is used to introduce the acts as well as add texture, with a brilliant video design by Duncan McLean.

He continues: “Taking all of this into consideration, my design has three goals. The first was to support the ‘variety show’ feel, with strong washes of colour, lots of comedy face light yet still be suitable for camera work. The second was ensuring that the portals and flown drapes received lots of lighting in order to make them ‘zing’ and ensure we maintain that light entertainment feel we’re used to seeing on TV. Thirdly, there was the wider brief of lighting the various tricks and keeping them ‘magical’ whilst still allowing the comedy to shine”.

Knowing the look and feel he had to achieve, David approached WL who is also supplying the Mischief Theatre tour of Comedy About a Bank Robbery. He explains: “I worked closely with WL’s Customer Service Team Leader Andy Cullen and Customer Service Account Handler Jade Johnson who were extremely helpful when it came to choosing the appropriate fixtures. Due to the theatre space being tight, I knew I needed a versatile rig. As such, I drew on the Martin MAC Encores, Martin Aura XBs, MAC Viper Washes, Clay Paky Sharpy Washes, Chroma-Q Colour Force 48 LED Battens, GLP Impression X4 Bar 20s, ETC ColorSource Spot LEDs and Source Fours. These worked perfectly for both the production and venue’s requirements. Whilst it is a loud show, at times, we need total silence in order for some of the brilliant jokes to work. With this rig, we can truly achieve that and help move both the action and comedy forward.

He adds: “We programmed the lighting on an ETC Eos Ti Console and the show runs on a Gio. I knew the control aspect of the show was going to be important as so many different elements are all linked together. Lighting additionally triggers video content and switching for cameras and playback. This, in turn, at times is triggered from sound and keeps sync with time-code, Midi and even the old-fashioned Stage Manager calling cues. Lighting also, on occasion, triggers a wide range of set and prop items that move, swing, drop and add to the comedy, so it has to be a tight and secure network”.

Whilst the rig featured a range of fixtures that played equally important roles, there was one in particular that was pivotal: the followspot. David explains: “The humble followspot is obviously not the most innovative fixture but was an essential item for the style of this production. I wanted a central followspot position in the upper circle so we had to work closely with Nimax Theatres in creating a position which avoided losing precious seats and didn’t cause issues with the building and stringent listing issues. So we found the old followspot box that had been (some years ago) converted into a staff bathroom and repurposed it. The result, thankfully, looks incredible and I’m grateful to the theatre for being so accommodating!”.

Prior to its West End run, the show ran The Lowry theatre in Salford. David comments: “With a show like this, it’s forever evolving. The space in Manchester was quite similar to the West End in width so this acted as a good template. That said, the show was constantly changing in previews so the equipment set-up has to be such that we can re-light a scene or create something entirely new on the spot which allows the writers (who also are currently performing) to see how the show plays with those changes. It’s incredible how much the content of the show has changed since those initial previews in Salford; which of course has completely changed aspects of my design.”

Following its recent opening, Magic Goes Wrong has just announced that it will extend its West End run until August 2020.

David concludes: “As always, it’s brilliant working with the Mischief team and contributing to a show that creates two hours of non-stop laughter every night. It was also great working with WL once again and their ever-helpful Hire team; especially Andy and Jade”.